USC vs. UCLA College Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet Trojans to Down Bruins In Rivalry Game
John McCoy/Getty Images. Pictured: Tahj Eaddy (2) and Evan Mobley of USC.
- The Pac-12 regular-season title is on the line when USC heads to Pauley Pavilion.
- USC has one of the best frontcourts in the nation, which will be a problem for the Bruins.
- BJ Cunningham sees big value in Evan Mobley and Co. to knock off UCLA.
USC vs. UCLA Odds
The Pac-12 regular-season title is on the line Saturday when intra-city rivals meet at Pauley Pavilion.
USC completely blew out Stanford on Thursday to end its two-game losing streak. The Trojans are in the middle of one of the program’s best seasons in the past decade and are tied atop the Pac-12 standings with Oregon, meaning Saturday’s game against UCLA will be for the regular-season conference title.
USC destroyed UCLA, 66-48, in the first meeting, so it will be looking for a similar performance on Saturday.
UCLA is also potentially playing for a Pac-12 regular-season title, as it’s a half-game behind USC and Oregon in the standings. The Bruins fell apart late against Oregon on Thursday, so they need to put that behind them if they want to hang with their rivals and keep their undefeated record at Pauley Pavilion this season intact.
When USC has the ball
The Trojans destroy their opponents in the paint.
USC is the tallest team in the country, and it has one the best big men in the country in the form of five-star freshman Evan Mobley. Mobley himself has carried the Trojans in the scoring department, averaging 16.2 points per game.
The Trojans shoot over 51% from inside the arc and over 61% on shot attempts at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.
USC also grabs offensive rebounds better than anybody in the conference and destroyed Stanford on the boards Thursday, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds.
The way to beat Mick Cronin’s defense is not inside, however. It’s from behind the arc.
UCLA’s defense has been average during conference play, allowing 1.03 points per possession, but where it’s really struggling is guarding the perimeter, allowing over 39% from 3-point range. USC hits 35% of its 3-pointers, so it’s quite possible that it shoots UCLA right out of this game.
Another problem for UCLA is it will be once against without 6-foot-10 center Jalen Hill. That’s going to be a major problem since it only has two other players who stand above 6-foot-6, which is not something you want to deal with when you’re facing the tallest team in the nation.
When UCLA has the ball
Typically, you don’t think of Cronin-coached teams as being offensive juggernauts, but that’s exactly what UCLA has been this season. The Bruins rank 19th in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and are averaging a solid 1.08 points per possession during Pac-12 play.
Where the Bruins hurt opponents the most is from behind the arc, shooting a Pac-12 best 38.5% from 3-point range. However, they only shoot 3s on 31% of their field goal attempts, so most of their attempts come inside, which is a recipe for disaster against this USC defense.
The Trojans allow only 43% from 2-point range and 51.6% on shots at the rim. With their size, it’s not surprising opponents are having difficulty inside, and it’s also not surprising that they also have the highest block rate in the Pac-12.
USC is the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12, allowing only 0.95 points per possession and held UCLA to 0.73 points per possession in the first meeting. Unless UCLA can get hot from 3-point range, I have a hard time seeing how it’s going to down USC.
Betting Analysis & Pick
I think USC is going to dominate this matchup inside.
Its performance on Thursday is a snapshot of how talented this Trojan team is and how difficult it is to break down on defense. I don’t think UCLA has the size to match up with the Trojans, so I really like USC in this matchup.
I have USC projected as -5.34 favorites on the road, so I think there’s a ton of value on the Trojans at -1.5.
Pick: USC -1.5 (up to -3.5).